Jesse William Bair (fl. 1922-1962) was a furniture maker and restorer who lived in Hanover, Pennsylvania. He worked for a number of well-known antique dealers during the mid-twentieth including Joe Kindig, Jr. of York, Pennsylvania and Robert S. Stuart of Philadelphia. After his death his son Richard began donating drawings and patterns of furniture, business records that relate to Bair’s furniture repair activities, and wood parts carved by Bair to the Winterthur Museum in Delaware.
Years ago on a visit to Winterthur, Charlie Hummel showed me one of the notebooks Jesse kept and we marveled at the amount of detail that was recorded. Bair’s itemized list for work done in the early 1940’s on a high chest for Joe Kindig, Jr. even specifies the bus fees paid for travel from Hanover to York and back as he picked up and delivered new carvings for the chest. Most surprising and helpful to me were the detailed notes of time spent carving a cartouche. He even had a separate line item for “back carving”. This was the first time I had heard this term used but having carved several cartouches by then I knew exactly what he meant and knew that it was an important part of the carving process. It was reassuring to see that the time he spent carving the cartouche was nearly identical to the time it was taking me in those days though I was charging a little more than the .40 cents an hour Bair charged Kindig. Photographs of many of the objects carved by Bair and donated to Winterthur are now on-line and can be found here.
A few tantalizing objects are not yet pictured, such as several cartouches and chair and table legs. Let’s hope they show up soon. The documents are cataloged in the archives and are available for research. Time for another visit.